Ceasar Okhuti absorbed the hero status after Uganda beat Rwanda in the final of the Cecafa Cup 2015 in Ethiopia to claim a record 14th title – plus $30,000 (over sh95m) prize money.
The Vipers SC attacker’s 14th minute header from a Denis Okot cross beat goakeeper Eric Ndayishimiye in a very physical and entertaining game at the Addis Ababa Stadium on Saturday.
The battle saw the Amavubi Stars impose their aerial and ball-holding strength over an equally solid Ugandan opposition, but they just couldn’t recover as The Cranes endured a nervy second half to hold on until the final whistle and spark celebrations miles away in Kampala.
It means Rwanda have now failed to beat Uganda in four finals of the regional competition, with previous meetings in 2011, 2009 and 2003.
While Uganda’s goakeeper Ismail Watenga won the Golden Glove for his heroics in-between the posts, Rwanda’s coach Jonathan McKinstry was named Coach of the Tournament.
The 29-year-old Irish tactician’s side will travel back to Kigali with a $20,000 cash prize for finishing as runner-up while the hosts Ethiopia, bagged $10,000 for taking third spot after seeing off Sudan 5-4 on penalties earlier.
For The Cranes, the trip back home will be a delightful one, and more so for Coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic who, ironically, was in charge of Rwanda in 2011 when Uganda had last beaten the Amavubi Stars in the final. Back then, it was current Kenyan coach Bobby Williamson in charge of The Cranes.
This is the first time Micho is winning the title at the helm and while he has already thanked his players for their hard work, as well as the Ugandan fans for their backing, the Serbian knows his boys fought hard to shake off a formidable opponent.
The Rwandans, who beat Sudan to reach the final, allowed The Cranes to boss play in the opening minutes, and for long periods, much of the ball was packed in their half.
But they didn’t take that dominance lying down, and when 24-year-old Police FC striker Jacques Tuyisenga was brought down in the 12th minute, Jean-Claude Iranzi stepped up to deliver Rwanda’s first set-piece, which went to waste.
And this is where the cruelty of the game of football comes in. Two minutes later, Uganda took the lead through a fierce Okhuti header (his third goal of the tournament), although the striker clipped his ankle by the post as he landed. Swift medical attention got him back on his feet moments later.